The Occupiers’ Liability Act means cottage owners can be held liable for personal injuries
With COVID-19 restrictions being relaxed, Canadian families and their friends are enjoying Canada’s favourite pastime again – escaping to the cottage! However, the new sense of freedom and return to normality doesn’t come without potential risks. Therefore, Canadian cottage owners should familiarize themselves with Ontario’s Occupiers’ Liability Act before celebrating with friends and family this cottage season. Cottage owners have what is known as occupiers’ liability. This means that those in possession of a cottage have a legal responsibility to ensure that their property is reasonably safe for normal use.
Under Ontario’s Occupiers’ Liability Act, cottage owners have a duty to take reasonable care of their property to ensure that it is safe for themselves and their guests. Failure to do so could result in potential liability for personal injuries sustained while at the cottage.
Ontario’s Occupiers’ Liability Act defined
The Government of Ontario outlines the full details of the Occupiers’ Liability Act. To summarize, it states that all occupiers of a cottage or premises owe a duty of care to ensure that all people entering the premises are reasonably safe. Owners must make an effort to ensure that the property is reasonably safe for use. This includes the regular maintenance of all entranceways, docks, porches, and decks.
Occupiers are considered anyone who is in physical possession of the premises. This includes the cottage owners themselves and anybody who has responsibility for controlling the conditions and activities of the premises. Beyond land, the term “premises” also refers to water, ships/boats, trailers and portable structures used as a residence, along with trains, railway cars, vehicles, and aircraft.
Proper insurance is the backbone of your duty of care obligations. Review the fine print of your existing home insurance policy, and if needed, request an additional policy for seasonal dwellings. You are best to have a policy that includes personal liability coverage that can address any potential claims that result from a personal injury at your cottage.
In short, it’s not only a legal responsibility but also a moral responsibility to ensure proper cottage safety.
Cottage owners should regularly inspect their property
Pay special attention to the following areas in and around your cottage to ensure all guests have a safe and enjoyable experience this summer.
- Entranceways should be clean and tidy, free from slippery substances
- Regularly maintain docks
- Regularly maintain swimming pools with proper safety equipment present
- Porches including steps and railings should be properly installed
- Clean and sand decks. Perform proper maintenance annually.
- Regularly maintain fireplaces
Measures cottage owners can take to improve safety
There are many simple ways that cottage owners can make their space safer and more comfortable for all parties.
- Install outdoor lights around the property to help guests clearly see where they are walking at night
- Ensure that all pathways are clear of debris and other obstructions
- Install slippery surface signs in areas that are vulnerable to falls including swimming pools and docks
- Prepare a fully stocked first-aid kit that can address allergic reactions, bug bites, bumps, and scratches
- Regularly test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors around the home to ensure they are in working order
- Set a good example as a host and drink alcohol or consume cannabis responsibly
Occupiers’ liability and the complications of alcohol
If a homeowner doesn’t make a concerted effort to prevent reasonable harm to their guests when serving alcohol, they could be found liable and face potential litigation in the event of a personal injury.
Occupiers’ liability related to boating accidents
Meanwhile, cottage owners should also supervise anyone operating watersports equipment. For instance, boats and jet skis. Remember, all operators of such equipment must also have the proper experience and licences. Accidents on the lake or pool are highly common, and cottage owners could be held liable in the event a guest experiences a serious personal injury on-site.
MG Law helps personal injury victims get the compensation they deserve
MG Law handles all types of personal injury claims including those related to breaches of Ontario’s Occupiers’ Liability Act. If you’ve suffered a serious personal injury at the cottage or whether a guest of yours has suffered the same fate, call the experienced team here at MG Law. Call us at (613) 730-8460 to book your free consultation.